My name is Zachary Oldham and this is my cultural self-assessment. In this post I will begin by talking about my own cultural identity. I will do this by giving a brief overview of my age, race, socioeconomic class, gender, and how I was raised from childhood through adolescents and into adulthood. I will also speak about my family and religion. After I have assessed my own cultural identity, I will discuss my personal ideas about two cultural groups different then my own. I have chosen to talk about my experiences and what I have learned about females and those of the upper socioeconomic class. I will answer many questions relative to these two cultural groups each of which will be based off of my own experiences. After answering a few questions about these two cultural identifications I will talk about where my information and ideas comes from. I will address who my sources are and who has taught me what I believe about these two groups. Following that section, I will conclude my thoughts by posing three questions/ideas that I would like deeper insight on before the end of the semester.
My Cultural Identity
I am a 25-year-old middle-class, Caucasian, male. I was born and raised in Orem Utah and I have lived in a predominately affluent, Caucasian community my entire life. Because most of my childhood, adolescents and young adult life has been spent in Utah Valley I have had a limited exposure to real poverty, or people of other races. One distinguishing part of my cultural identity is that I was raised by two parents a father who worked and a mother that stayed at home as a homemaker. My family life growing up was very pleasant and I enjoyed lots of great times with my siblings. I am the second to youngest of five children, I have one older sister and three brothers. My father is a business owner so I was taught from a young age to work for what I wanted, and ultimately I could decide my own destiny with the sky being the limit. I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I am currently a practicing member of the faith. I attended Church each week growing up and was taught that a faith in God and a strong moral foundation was essential to happiness in this life. I was also taught that I had the responsibility to share that belief and our faith with others. Due to this belief, I served a two-year mission for my church in Spokane, Washington. This experience did give me more exposure to life outside of Utah Valley and provided me growth as I entered new cultures and was exposed to conflicting ideas from my own. I have spoken English my entire life and I was called as an English speaking missionary so I have had little exposure through language to other cultures.
I have learned so much about women in the last few years I could write a book. From getting married to having a daughter my understanding of women has changed and developed immensely. With that being the case I’d like to answer some questions that will help you understand how I feel about the female gender.
Are women as intelligent as men? I have learned from many experiences that women are absolutely as intelligent as men. Although my understanding of this intelligence has changed I don’t feel there was ever a time in my life I felt that women were not every bit equal to men in terms of intelligence. The Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines intelligence as the skilled use of reason. I think in this sense I have always felt that men and women were equal. I do feel like I have been impacted by what our culture has traditionally defined as gender roles. As I grew up I would have naturally told you that men or males as a whole group were more intelligent in certain fields or areas because men were predominantly the ones in those fields. As a child it was clear to me that men were meant to lead out in certain areas of business, medicine, the trades, sports, and other areas of our culture that are dominated by men. I don’t think I felt women were less intelligent meaning that they couldn’t succeed in these fields but that they hadn’t really been given the opportunity. I will say if you had put a picture of man and a woman on a screen and asked me which was the owner of the company and which was the secretary I would definitely put the man as the owner of the business and the women as the secretary. I think that this example illustrates a very deep idea that is ingrained within most people on the earth. I wouldn’t say that men are more intelligent, but that men get the opportunity traditionally to show their intelligence in a greater capacity then women have historically. If my first reaction is the man is the owner and the women is the secretary it would appear that I feel the man is more intelligent, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think I see males as being in leadership because that’s what history tells me.
Do women have similar values as men? I definitely feel that women have similar values as men do. I do feel that men and women put greater emphasis on certain values. I think that women as a whole appear more honest and put a greater emphasis on mercy than men do. I feel like women typically value education more than men do. I think that women are also generally more innocent then men and appear more kind and approachable.
Do women usually behave in a certain way? I feel that the majority of women put great value in outward appearance so they are always spending money on clothes and makeup trying make themselves feel cute. Women feel immense social pressure to look perfect and be perfect. There is great pressure for women to be skinny and sexy and symmetrical so beauty products and self improvement products are a constant worry. Women also typically just want to talk about problems instead of fix them. I’ve found that women need to be listened to and validated when they have issues. Women usually already know what they need to do to fix the problem and even if they don’t they just want you to listen.
How do women fit into my worldview? My mother was someone who cleaned the house and cooked the food. Her primary duty was a caregiver and she was a stay at home mother who helped me with homework and made sure my brothers and I were not fighting. Growing up with this as my worldview I honestly have been very surprised to go into the world and find out that the traditional view of women is changing. It has begun shifting that women are encouraged more and more to go into the work force and help provide for the family. I would even say that it’s almost taken a complete turn and women who stay at home now feel that they are looked down upon in certain contexts because they are just stay-at-home mothers.
Have I come into contact enough with women to see what I’ve been taught put into practice? I feel that I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life so I’ve definitely had plenty of exposure to watch and see how my father treated women. I was always taught that women were equal to men and a great example that shows this in action is how my father counseled with my mother about large family decisions. Out of respect for my mom and her opinions my dad adjusted his career multiple times and even left working with his family at one point based on my mother’s feelings and input. Even though my father is a business owner and very successful he treats my mother equal because she is his equal. I’ve also watched how he treats female employees and clients and he treats them as equals in every context, teaching me through example how he feels about women.
Socioeconomic Class- Upper Class
The second cultural group I’ve chosen to speak about is the upper class. The upper class is a socioeconomic group which includes members of society that are affluent or very rich. I would like to self reflect on my experiences with these people and answer a few questions.
Is the upper class as intelligent as the middle class? I feel that the upper class people that I’ve come into contact with are definitely as intelligent as the middle class people I know, including myself. I will say that in some ways members of the upper class feel that they are more intelligent than those who have less money or less material wealth. But in my experience I wouldn’t say they are more intelligent, just equal.
Does the upper class have similar values to the middle class? Externally I want to say yes. From my life experience people with lots of money still have similar values to those who don’t but I’ve seen some exceptions to that also. People with money often aren’t able to keep in perspective the correct balance between family and money and time. It’s difficult to not let yourself get consumed by material wealth and so it often ends up becoming a top priority and family doesn’t matter as much.
Do upper class people typically behave in a certain way? I would say that members of the upper class typically speak down to those beneath them. Even if they do not do it purposefully its difficult to speak with someone respectfully when internally you feel you are above them. Society has a scale and it’s inherent in the name of this cultural group, “upper class”. Upper meaning above the middle and lower class. You are at the top of society, “upper” being symbolic of something better or more worthy. So yes I feel that people who are wealthy typically treats others poorly until they find out how much they are worth financially. Members of the upper class rank order people in terms of money and power, and treat you according to your rank.
How does the upper class fit into my worldview? My father was raised in a condemned shack on a small farm in Santaquin, Utah. His view of rich people was rather bad because he was treated very poorly by people who had accumulated lots of wealth. That being said I’ve grown up with the understanding that there are some people who are very wealthy who are kind and treat everyone great. I understand now from experience that typically the person who worked for the wealth is often times more kind than the person who inherited it. Most of my experiences with wealthy upper class people fit the typical arrogant, all about money attitudes you see portrayed on television. But occasionally you meet someone and they are genuine, good, down-to-earth people.
Have I come into contact enough with members of the upper class enough to put what I’ve learned into practice? I have absolutely been exposed my entire life to members of the upper class. Although I grew up in a middle class neighborhood I also knew personally certain people with millions of dollars and I was able to observe how they treated people, what they valued, and how they saw the world. One concrete example I have was when my rich uncle introduced me to his friend. My uncle was introducing me to a friend of his at the Cracker Barrel in Springville Utah, now take into consideration before I tell you the punchline that I had been home from my mission for 4-1/2 years when this story took place. I was introduced as, “this is Marks son, he was an AP (Assistant to the President) on his mission in Spokane, Washington.” To this day I realized that just introducing me wasn’t enough, my uncle needed to validate how awesome I was by telling his friend something impressive about me. Being an AP or Assistant to the President is a calling as a missionary. My uncle who is wealthy was trying to impress the man he was introducing me to because my uncle is someone who really cares about titles and status. Members of the upper class put great weight on titles and on accomplishment.
Sources of Cultural Knowledge
I consider my primary sources for cultural knowledge to be my family and even more specifically my parents. I can tie so many of my current view points and current understandings of culture and people back to my roots which were almost always planted by my family while I was young. I also realize as I get older that my parents laid a cultural foundation for me to build upon, by teaching me principles and values to live by. Although my parents laid the foundation, my continuing source of cultural knowledge is my neighbors, friends and the media. I am still incredibly close with my siblings, parents, and other relatives but they don’t play as big of a role in helping me see and develop new cultural knowledge the way they did when I was young. I have begun to see how big a role the media, including facebook, Instagram, google, twitter, movies, Hollywood, Netflix, politics, and the smart phone are having on me. The constant stream of information and new ideas and new perspectives on current cultural topics such as gender and socioeconomic class is exhausting. The values I was taught and the foundations of how I view culture are constantly getting rocked.
The Media-on Women
As a member of a generation that came through their mid to upper teenage years with facebook and other social media I feel the effects that this technology has had on me and how I view our culture here in America. I’d like to apply the effect that this media has had on me concerning my view of women. I’ve personally seen the shift for women to be out of the home and into the workplace pushed in politics, the news, on facebook, and through movies. You watch on television and the movies as women are almost never in the home, they are in business or politics or some professional realm succeeding at a high level. The media is committed to putting women in the workplace in an effort to make the idea a reality and adjust the traditional cultural norm.
My Parents/Family-on Women
The traditional idea that a woman is firstly a homemaker has been deemed a sexist idea that puts woman beneath men. This rhetoric is pushed by the media on a daily basis. As the media has tried its hardest to influence me, I find myself still holding on to what I was taught as a child. When I was young I feel like it was more culturally acceptable for women to stay in the home and be homemakers. I even think it was still encouraged by lots of people and seen as a position of respect. Being a mother and raising the next generation was seen as a great responsibility. Politics hadn’t gotten to where it is today, and frankly the media didn’t play near as big of a role in shaping peoples opinions because there wasn’t near the access to it. We still had television and radio but there were no cell phones, no social media so the news we got was often more local. I think that there are large factors in why I feel how I do today. My parents and family were my primary sources of cultural knowledge and what I was taught then sunk deeply into my soul. My mother had the chance to be a stay-at-home mom and although I know that doesn’t work for everyone I really feel like I benefitted greatly from it.
Between the media’s influence on me and what I was taught as a child I personally am at the point where I feel with my whole heart that women are every bit as smart and intelligent as men are. I feel that the media has helped me vocalize how amazing I think women are, and I love and appreciate the pro-women movements I see on facebook and the media so long as they talk about how great women are, not how terrible men are. Celebrating women and believing in women needs to be a greater focus in the world and the influence of the media and my education has opened me up to that reality.
The Media-on the Upper Class.
The media has taught me that wealth is something to be sought after at all costs. Even if it means taking from someone else unethically. I used to think that getting ahead meant ahead of the bills and the necessities of life, but now days It’s so easy to show everyone how rich you are on social media that I feel like I am constantly forced to compare my financial accomplishments to those of my peers. Getting ahead means, showing others you are more wealthy and powerful then they are. So many people are searching for that next get-rich-quick scheme and honestly there are times when it seems enticing. I find that the media’s view of the rich has influenced me and made me trust members of the elite upper class less and less. From politicians to big business it’s hard to trust people making that much money or who have that much power. I have found that this media frenzy has rubbed off on me and partly shaped the distrust I have for people in power and authority positions.
My Parents/Family- on the Upper Class
My original teachers on the subject of wealth and social class were my parents. Neither of my parents come from any money and they learned from a young age that you had to work if you wanted to get anywhere in life. My father’s family would have been considered lower class and my mother’s family probably the lower end of the middle class which definitely influenced how I view the upper class today. My parents taught me that money allows you to be who you always wanted to be. If you always wanted to help others and be charitable you could do that with money. If you always wanted to be powerful and rich and consider yourself better than others, money could help you do that also. My understanding of the rich was that some were bad, but lots were good. My parents had a fairly positive approach to members of the upper class and although I ran into some rich people who were very arrogant and put others down, I also had many examples growing up of people who were wealthy and incredibly generous and pleasant to be around. So honestly my teachers consisted of the wealthy people I knew, my parents, and members of my family who obtained lots of money.
In conclusion, I’d like to confess that doing this self-reflection based on my own understanding of gender and socioeconomic class has really made me realize what I think and where that information comes from. Sometimes we have an idea or an opinion but we forget where that idea originated and who helped us develop it. I hadn’t previously realized how large of a role my parents had in teaching me concepts that have shaped the way I interpret the messages that are pushed on me by the media. The media’s power to indoctrinate is great but I see that so much of the world and it’s culture I am viewing through the lens my parents gave me.
Gender is a topic of much interest to me because it’s a part of so much of what we do. Its influence is seamlessly woven into all parts of our culture and doing this reflection helped see that. I feel the same when it comes to socioeconomic class in that it’s quietly around us and plays a huge role in our communication.
Diving into these topics has also given me an appreciation for how much more I have to learn and consider. The following three questions/ideas are things I would be interested learning about before the semester ends.
- I’d like to learn more about traditional verse progressive gender roles in the American culture and potentially what role communication plays in those.
- How does socioeconomic class change between races and cultures and how does that affect communication?
- Why is gender such an integral part of our language and how can we fight sexist stereotypes through changing our language?